Above: His Holiness reaching out to the margins? With the chief Rabbi of Cyprus, Dec 3, 2021. Photo Credit: Vatican Media.
The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales and the FIUV (Una Voce International) have issued a joint press release on yesterday’s Rescript, which insists that bishops may not allow the celebration of Masses in parish churches on their own authority: the matter is “reserved to the Holy See,” with the Dicastery for Divine Worship making the final decision. In the press release we have tried to explain exactly what this means and what happens next. As a matter of official Church policy, however, the whole business seems bizarre.
We have repeatedly been told that Pope Francis is concerned about people “on the peripheries” of the Church. He wants to make them feel welcome and included. And yet here is a policy which is specifically designed to make people feel unwelcome and excluded, and to drive people who had found a precarious spiritual home in a parish to the peripheries. Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass must be made to feel like second-class citizens.
The Dicastery for Divine Worship made this quite clear in their previous document on this subject, the Responsa ad dubia:
The exclusion of the parish church is intended to affirm that the celebration of the Eucharist according to the previous rite, being a concession limited to these groups, is not part of the ordinary life of the parish community.
The “ordinary life of the parish community” is something from which the “group” of Traditional Catholics is to be excluded. They must be pushed out.
The drafters of this document seem to feel some embarrassment about this bald statement and a few paragraphs later they try to claw it back a bit:
There is no intention in these provisions to marginalise the faithful who are rooted in the previous form of celebration: they are only meant to remind them that this is a concession to provide for their good (in view of the common use of the one lex orandi of the Roman Rite) and not an opportunity to promote the previous rite.
So, they insist, it is not meant to marginalise them. Ok, so what is it supposed to do? It “reminds” them of something: that they are second-class citizens, perhaps. And then we get this odd claim: that this “concession” to allow them the Old Mass is “not an opportunity to promote” it, something that happens, apparently, by the mere fact of it taking place in the same ecclesiastical building as the Novus Ordo, however many hours separate the two services. It seems that attachment to the Traditional Mass to tantamount to having a contagious disease, from which the real “parish community,” the hitherto uninfected ones, must be protected.
Those Trads need to be quarantined.
No amount of weasel words can hide it: we are to be kept apart from others, isolated, until we oblige the Holy See by withering away. If you like the Traditional Mass, you are ipso facto, by that very fact, not a part of the “parish community”: even if it so happens that you have worshipped in that parish all your life.
Some people have suggested over the years that Catholics attached to the Traditional Mass would do well to avoid appearing stand-offish, or even as having a “schismatic mentality,” and integrate themselves as much as possible into their parishes: go along to parish events, contribute to fund-raising, join the rota for cleaning the church, get stuck in to the finance committee, and whatever else is going on. How easy this is in practice has varied a good deal: parish events on Saturdays and weekday evenings don’t seem so attractive if you live 100 miles away. Nevertheless, when it works, parishes with celebrations of both missals have found Trads among their most dedicated and generous parishioners. In some cases the very survival of a parish has come to depend upon them.
But how wrong we all were. We have now heard from the Holy See in unambiguous terms that the integration into parish life of Catholics attached to the older Missal is a thoroughly bad thing. The ones with a schismatic mentality, whatever that was supposed to mean, are the good ones: or at least the less bad ones. The ones contributing to the new roof or the parish pot-luck need to be “reminded” that, truly, they are not welcome. Perhaps a place can be found for them in a cramped convent chapel or a rented meeting-room, to rub the point in. The ideal, however, is for them to go away, or cease to exist.
I started to attend the TLM before Summorum Pontificum in 2007, when the official attitude was pretty similar to the one being promoted today. I experienced several Mass locations where the Traditional Mass was available, but where we were nonetheless deliberately made to feel unwelcome. The times of our Masses were not advertised; we weren’t allowed to use a parish room for a social gathering after Mass; sermons included snide little remarks about us. In one case, Masses took place in a municipal meeting room which we hired by the hour. I’m a cradle Catholic, and discovering the ancient Mass was a strange experience: I’d found my liturgical heritage, but lost my ecclesial home. I had located myself in the Church’s history and tradition, but been turfed out of the Church in social terms.
That’s what they want to do to us again, but things have changed. The attitude of the clergy is by and large completely different today, and that includes many bishops. This new policy is going to cause great pain quite pointlessly to many good people, but it will fail. The Church is our home, and we are not leaving it: and the priests who celebrate the old Mass for us certainly do not want to see us go.
This Lent, offer some prayers and penances for a return to a sane and pastoral attitude: that space be made for the faithful who want the older Mass, and for the priests who want to give it to them. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.”
Editor’s note: join the fellowship of St. Nicholas (English or Español) to offer corporate fasting for this intention.
Dr Joseph Shaw has a Doctorate in Philosophy from Oxford University, where he also gained a first degree in Politics and Philosophy and a graduate Diploma in Theology. He is the editor of The Case for Liturgical Restoration: Una Voce Position Papers on the Extraordinary Form (Angelico Press), and the author of The Liturgy, the Family, and the Crisis of Modernity (Os Justi). He is the Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales and President of Una Voce International. He was a member of the Philosophy Faculty in Oxford University for 18 years and is now an independent scholar and freelance writer. He lives outside Oxford with his wife and nine children.